East Brunswick landfill officials update residents about new projects

The Middlesex County Utility Authority landfill in East Brunswick

EAST BRUNSWICK–Discussing the latest upgrades and future projects, Middlesex County Utility Authority (MCUA) representatives brought residents up-to-date on the East Brunswick landfill.

MCUA Executive Director Joseph Cryan, Middlesex County Landfill Engineer Robert Leslie and Landfill Solid Waste Division Manager Paul Clark spoke to about two dozens residents who attended the virtual presentation on March 30.

“The landfill is divided into cells, not getting too technical, in terms of how we build and platform and so on. Think of it this way: cells are no different than say the Township of East Brunswick having six or seven different zip codes. You can imagine what a map of that might look like; that’s what cells are, particular areas of the landfill,” Cryan said.

Starting off the presentation, a video was played showing drone camera shots of different parts of the landfill that was filmed in February, Cryan said.

MCUA began landfill operations in 1980. The original Edgeboro Landfill dates back to the 1950s. The landfill site includes 315 acres of which 247 acres are dedicated to the landfill.

There are hundreds of additional acres that are buffered in green space, according to information provided by officials.

At the landfill there is an office, maintenance buildings and scale facilities where all incoming trucks are weighed and processed. Below is a 20-acre East Brunswick leaf composting and wood grinding site, which is one of the host community benefits that the MCUA provides to East Brunswick residents, according to provided information.

Approaching the landfill from the west and the Pine Ridge section of East Brunswick behind the landfill, there are two operating workplaces where an average of 1,700 tons of waste are disposed of on a daily basis.

Continuing south toward Route 18, the western slope of the landfill, which was recently capped, can be seen. This 18-acre slope faces the Pine Ridge section of East Brunswick. The project was completed in the summer of 2020.

Uncapped areas of the landfill, not currently in use, are covered by two feet of soil, according to the information provided.

There is also a top ring of the new odor control system, and a material staging area for landfill gas system and curriculum projects, according to the information provided.

“So, what do we do at the landfill? We provide disposal waste for 825,000 residents that live in Middlesex County, 25 different communities, 48,000 which are from the township (East Brunswick). We are not a 24/7 operation; we do get confused a little bit with the [MCUA] Sayreville facility, which is 24/7,” Cryan said. “We operate about 300 days a year … We work Monday through Friday and a half-day Saturday. We’re off on holidays … [and] we don’t work Sundays.”

As mentioned in the video, Cryan said the landfill processes about 1,700 tons of trash a day, which comes out to about 3.4 million pounds of trash per year. That averages out to about 4.4 pounds of waste per day for each resident in Middlesex County.

Oftentimes landfill officials, Cryan said, get asked by residents how they can help with sustainability. Simply, look at ways to reduce the amount of trash created because each bit makes a difference, he responded.

Speaking about the landfill’s latest completed project, Clark said construction of the Final Sideslope Closure Project began in August 2019 to reduce odors onsite and was substantially completed in June 2020.

“We met with area residents in January of 2019. We discussed, and based on numerous factors, we have made the decision to fast track a $10 million final cap project on the Edgeboro Road side,” Clark said. “We believe this would help curtail potential odors, and given the proximity to our neighbors we wanted to make this project a priority. The most important part of this project is that for the residents who live on Pine Ridge Drive, this closure means that the MCUA will never place waste in this area of the landfill.”

Clark said the total area capped is approximately 18 acres – more specifically, a portion of cells one, five, six and nine along Edgeboro Road that is located on the western side of the landfill.

For this project, Clark said a permanent cap was installed with 60 milliliters LLDPE liner, a geocomposite drain, 12-inch drainage sand, geotextile fabric and 6-inch topsoil.

Responding to the odor complaints made by residents in 2019, Leslie said the landfill has investigated different technologies to help mitigate any odors that occur on the landfill.

“Settling upon a vaporization-type system that was completed in the summer of 2019, each system consists of 3,000 linear feet or 4-inch diameter around the top and bottom of the landfill’s perimeter,” Leslie said. “The piping system is connected to six individual units … that contains product storage tanks, vaporizing system and blower. This [Department of Environmental Protection-] approved product reacts on a molecular level; any odor has a greatly reduced potential to travel offsite.”

Leslie said daily inspections are performed on the site to verify compliance. The vaporizing product is manufactured by GSE technologies and is United States Environmental Protection Agency-approved. The safety data sheet can be found on the MCUA’s website.

The construction and installation of this odor control system, Leslie said, cost approximately $2.8 million and is the first of its kind in the state. Since installing this odor system there has been a noticeable reduction in odor complaints.

“When waste is deposited in the landfill, over time the organic portion of that waste begins to decompose. A byproduct of that anaerobic decomposition is rational gas. It’s important to collect landfill gas because it can be used as an energy source. It prevents fugitive emissions, and also to control odors on site,” Landfill Senior Environmental Engineer Chris Keller said.

The landfill gas collection system, Keller said, consists of about 350 vertical wells and other collection devices, and a series of a network of collection piping, which extracts gas from the landfill. This gas is then conveyed via a pipeline to a cogeneration facility in Sayreville. At that facility it’s turned into electricity and that electricity is used to power their wastewater treatment.

In 2019 and 2020, Keller said four landfill gas collection system improvement projects were constructed since the landfill’s June 2019 public meeting.

Keller said the landfill gas collection system improvements included the installation of 105 vertical wells and 21,500 linear feet of collection piping, which cost approximately $5 million.

For 2021-22, Keller said the landfill is planning two additional projects, which, when completed, will result in the total replacement of the landfill’s gas collection system over the top 100-acre portion of the landfill.

Keller said the total cost for both projects is $3 million and improvements will significantly reduce odor complaints.

Additional capital improvement projects, Keller said, include temporary cover projects on the southeast and north slopes of the landfill cover, about 65 acres.

Keller said each cover will consist of a geocomposite drain, LLDPE liner and wind defender ballast system. These temporary cover projects will primarily aid in preventing erosion onsite and help prevent fugitive emissions.

Keller said the landfill also created a yearly on-call liner contract that gives them the ability to respond quickly to an area where they feel it may be necessary to provide temporary covering.

“The tonnage at the landfill is actually down in the past year because we believe, obviously COVID-19. I really want to take a moment and thank our staff for their adjustments that so many have done whether it was half shifts, different times or it’s making sure the testing and the rest. I want to take a moment, publicly, to thank those folks as well for a job well done,” Cryan said.

For more information on the MCUA coordination with East Brunswick, visit www.mcua.com/about-us/ or call 732-721-3800.

Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].